Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Baroness Turner of Camden—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
My Lords, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to open this debate on foreign affairs, international development and defence. The world has changed profoundly in the year-and-a-half since we last discussed these issues in a debate on the gracious Speech. Since then, some of our worst fears, which to many people were far-fetched or unimaginable, have become a reality in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Bali and Moscow. Terrorism has threatened the international community more starkly than ever.
But, over the same period, we have also seen the international community performing at its best in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. All those countries still have huge difficulties to overcome but all have become not so much theatres of conflict as theatres of co-operation, rebuilding and shared international effort.
We in this country can be proud of Britain's contribution to that effort. Our role in international peacekeeping forces as well as our support for reconstruction has been crucial. These are among the best examples of Britain acting as a force for good in the world and a prime example of why we need strong Armed Forces equipped for today's challenges; a dedicated and astute Diplomatic Service; vigilant and well-informed intelligence services; and an international development programme focused on eradicating poverty, hunger and disease. I pay tribute to all the men and women who serve the United Kingdom throughout the world in those capacities. Their work is often difficult and dangerous. It does not always grab the headlines. All too often it surfaces only in times of military conflict, terrorist outrage or humanitarian disaster. But it goes on painstakingly and professionally day in, day out and it matters deeply.
Let me begin with what will be foremost in many minds today: Iraq. Your Lordships will want to know that there will be an opportunity to debate that subject fully in this House in coming weeks. The Government's policy is clear: full compliance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and an end to Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction, verified by United Nations weapons inspectors. Those are our crucial objectives. Iraqi acceptance yesterday, albeit grudgingly, of the unanimously expressed will of the United Nations in the shape of UNSCR 1441 is a first welcome step. But we must be vigilant. The Iraqi regime's intentions are notoriously changeable. To achieve our objectives we must continue to pursue a strategy of diplomacy backed by force. Last week's UN Security Council resolution gives us what we need: a path forward in how the international community should deal with that threat and, crucially, a path forward for Iraq too, if the regime will take it, to normalise relations with the rest of the world.
The United Nations is also playing a key role in combating international terrorism. The UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, under the chairmanship of our Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock, is reviewing the efforts of member states to suppress terrorism, and co-ordinating support for those efforts. We are making real progress. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has been removed and democratic government established. Reconstruction is underway. Al'Qaeda's operations have been severely disrupted. But the threat remains and nobody is immune: the advanced economies, the military powers, commercial life, or, indeed, the poorer parts of the world. We all suffer from terrorism or the threat of terrorism. This Government will continue to play a leading role in combating it.
In recent weeks we have been asked about the direct linkage between terrorism and our concerns about weapons of mass destruction. The question has been raised in this House. The fact is that both are threats. They are distinct and separate but both are current and potentially deadly. We know that Iraq is not the only country to have been building up undeclared weapons of mass destruction. North Korea also poses a serious threat. There are concerns about, among others, India, Pakistan and Israel. In all those cases the countries concerned are in discussion about how to deal with their weapons.
Where states possess nuclear weapons, we must work to minimise the risk of them being used. In South Asia, Britain has been active in trying to reduce longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan. We hope the recent elections in Kashmir can serve as the basis for further confidence building.
For many commentators, politicians and many of your Lordships, I know that the underlying problem, the huge unresolved conflict, is in the Middle East. We must all work to stop the violence and build a more secure future for Israel and the Palestinian people. The Government understand the enormity of the obstacles which face us. Those obstacles can be overcome only through leadership by those directly involved but the international community can and must help. I applaud the role Javier Solana is playing as the EU's representative in the quartet on the Middle East working alongside the United States, the United Nations and Russia. The quartet is moving forward on a road map that could achieve a final settlement within three years, breaking the cycle of violence, despair, hatred and deprivation which has gone on for too long and which is a scar on the face of the international community.
Russia's role in the quartet on the Middle East is just one example of its growing partnership with the West. That is an important and welcome trend. There are many issues of common concern. As the terrible events in Moscow two weeks ago illustrated, Russia knows as much as any country about the threat from terrorism. We have a shared interest in combating international crime and curbing the flow of heroin from Afghanistan. Building on those shared interests, we are now also working to develop a new relationship between NATO and Russia. We look forward to continuing the dialogue of growing trust and co-operation.
Moreover, NATO itself is changing fast. The Prague Summit later this month will be an opportunity to reshape NATO to provide defence against the new threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. That means giving it new missions, new capabilities, new command structures and a substantial number of new members. NATO is also developing new relationships with its partners to the east and south, especially Russia following the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council. All that represents a transformation which will guarantee the role of the alliance as the bedrock of our security for the next generation.
The transatlantic alliance remains the basis of our collective and territorial defence. Our relationship with the United States is strong and effective. We are bound not only by our close ties of commerce, defence and language but by the underlying values we share as free people within vibrant civil societies where democracy and the rule of law are paramount. We are, as the American Ambassador William Farish remarked at the commemoration of the dreadful events of September 11th, the United States' staunchest ally and truest friend. But, as in all relationships, both sides have to work hard and both countries, the United Kingdom and the United States, do indeed work hard to sustain and grow our vital friendship.
Diplomacy must always be backed by defence. Our defence capability is crucial in making us an effective international partner. Our Strategic Defence Review has provided the basis for restructuring and re-equipping our Armed Forces. The value of that has been proved time and again in terms of their professional fighting capability and superb record in peacekeeping. Our servicemen and women are the envy of the world. We shall ensure that they have the support they need to perform effectively. We must continue to take prudent steps to ensure that they are ready, fully trained and fully equipped to undertake any task their country may ask of them.
The new chapter of the Strategic Defence Review published this year provided a renewed assessment of the fast-changing security environment. We are increasing our defence spending and have launched an unprecedented programme of enhancing defence capabilities: new aircraft carriers, the new Type 45s; new transport provision in C17s and the A400M; the Typhoon; the Joint Strike Fighter; and Watchkeeper, which will form a key part of progress towards network enabled capabilities. Also, in ASRAAM the RAF now has a missile available for full operational deployment that is already the best of its kind in the world; and, yes, we will have a new communications systems too.
We must also continue to work with our EU partners on a European security and defence policy to enable Europe's contribution to crisis management operations both within NATO and when NATO is not engaged. That will be discussed at the Copenhagen Summit. The summit will also see historic decisions on enlargement of the EU to include new members. The Government hope to see a first wave of accession by 2004 by 10 EU applicants and will, as the gracious Speech indicated, bring forward the necessary legislation during this Parliament.
The Government are also working to promote reform of the EU's internal structures. The Treaty of Nice was the first step. Copenhagen will be another. We have laid out our priorities: defining the competencies of the EU more clearly; simplifying the treaties to make them easier to understand; addressing the role of national parliaments in the EU; and improving the EU's democratic legitimacy. We hope that the Convention on the Future of Europe will see progress on this agenda, and we commend the work of parliamentarians in both Houses who are taking this forward.
Reform is needed to help to prepare the way for EU enlargement. But that is not the only reason why reform is needed. Many of the changes we are seeking are long overdue; for example, strengthening co-operation against organised crime and illegal immigration and reforming the common agricultural policy. The mid-term review is still on track and Europe must recognise that a system of subsidies where every cow is subsidised to the tune of two dollars a day, while 1.2 billion people around the world subsist on one dollar a day is not right, not sustainable and not acceptable. We must also enhance the competitiveness of the EU economies. The Government will complete by June 2003 their assessment of whether Britain should join the euro, based on the five economic tests. In the meantime, our policy remains clear: in principle we are in favour of joining; in practice the economic conditions must be right.
We want to strengthen the EU's role as a force for good in the world in preventing conflict, promoting democracy and human rights, and supporting sustainable development. The Convention on the Future of Europe is looking at reforms to the EU's foreign policy mechanisms. Development also deserves a distinctive place in the convention's considerations. We want to see the EU's current development policy reform efforts intensified. That includes reducing trade barriers, particularly to agricultural goods, to make it easier for developing countries to begin to trade effectively. The Government will work with EU partners for a successful conclusion to the multilateral trade negotiations launched in Doha last year.
According to the IMF, if we were able to halve the trade tariffs around the world, we could increase the trade to developing countries by some 150 billion dollars a year. That is three times what the whole world gives in aid budgets to those countries.
As the Minister for Trade, noble Lords would expect me to be committed on this point: I am convinced that a successful trade round would serve the interests of developing and developed countries alike, including of course this country. Our prosperity is hugely dependent on international trade and investment. Our long-standing crucial trading relationships with the US and with Europe are well understood. But world-wide we must sustain our efforts, which produce 30 per cent of our GDP. The City of London is one of the world's leading financial markets. One in three of our diplomats is involved in promoting British business and securing high-quality foreign investment. The creation of British Trade International, which reports directly to the DTI and the Foreign Office, has enhanced their work greatly.
British Trade International is a great example of the Government's emphasis on joining up the work of Whitehall departments. That is important in all areas of policy. But it is particularly relevant to much of today's foreign policy agenda. For example, trade relationships with the countries of Latin America, with Brazil and Mexico, on the one hand and countries in Asia—in particular with China emerging as a huge economy—are crucial in taking forward other areas of shared concern. Globalisation is making Britain's security and prosperity increasingly dependent on events abroad. Departments traditionally focused on domestic policy are increasingly aware of the international angle; and departments traditionally focused on international developments are increasingly aware of the domestic agenda. A good example was the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Through active, joined-up diplomacy we played a key role in securing a wide array of new commitments to promote sustainable development worldwide.
It is appropriate that that summit was held in Africa. Nowhere is the challenge of sustainable development more compelling. We can, and must, make progress. This requires partnership; a commitment by African leaders to pursue policies to tackle poverty, and a commitment by the international community to support those policies. The New Partnership for Africa's Development provides the framework we need. Britain is providing strong support. Our assistance to Africa is increasing rapidly and will soon exceed £1 billion per year. The Prime Minister has given strong leadership in this endeavour and of course my noble friend Lady Amos has been closely involved as his special representative in Africa and has worked tirelessly on this issue.
The priority we are giving to Africa is part of a wider refocusing of Britain's international development programme towards a single goal; that is, reducing poverty. That was confirmed by the International Development Act, which received Royal Assent during the last Parliament. We will press ahead with this agenda and work to strengthen the development efforts of the international community as a whole, particularly the EU, the United Nations and the World Bank. The key challenge is to focus the entire international effort on achieving the millennium development goals.
In the meantime, we are faced with the appalling food crisis in southern Africa and increasing concern at the situation in Ethiopia. The number of people at risk in southern Africa is truly terrifying. We have committed more than £81 million since September in humanitarian assistance and agricultural recovery. Our support will continue. We must also encourage others in the wider international community to engage further. In Ethiopia, at the same time as humanitarian assistance, we are looking at tackling the underlying causes of food insecurity.
The Commonwealth is a key partner in these efforts. The Government's commitment to the Commonwealth remains as strong as ever. Members are bound by a shared commitment to sustainable development, based on the principles of good governance and respect for human rights. It is tragic that these principles originally agreed in Harare are now so threatened in Zimbabwe. We must continue to work with our Commonwealth partners and the wider international community to continue to tackle the problems which have had such an appalling effect on the long-suffering people of that country.
The Government also remain firmly committed to British Overseas Territories, as set out in the 1999 White Paper. We want to build a secure, stable and prosperous future for all our territories, and of course we have particularly in mind at the moment Gibraltar. As I have said many times in your Lordships' House, this can be achieved only through constructive dialogue, a dialogue which we hope to continue with all interested parties.
We know that these are not issues for government alone. We know we need to work closely with business, non-governmental organisations, religious communities and the whole range of others involved in international development and foreign and defence policy. The Government have taken significant steps to enhance such co-operation. We recognise the need to reach out to all those who can contribute to this debate—to the Arab and Muslim communities—in finding a way forward on what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister described as the only viable solution that the whole world supports in the Middle East—an Israeli state recognised by all and a viable Palestinian state.
We need to reach out, too, to those in failing or failed nations, to help them to rebuild their fragile societies and to move away from military conflict, corruption and poverty.
We recognise the need for dialogue between the great religions of the world. I commend, as did my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, the work of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey of Clifton, in pioneering the Alexandria process in this respect, which embraces the religious leaders with very different views and backgrounds, but all with a shared passion for peace.
We shall talk to those who will engage in this endeavour to encourage all countries to espouse the freedoms that we hold dear and to apply the benefits which flow from those freedoms in terms of peace and prosperity fairly around the world.
My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords are extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for her wide-ranging survey of international affairs. In the time available I could not possibly—nor shall I—seek to cover all the interesting points and aspects of this very dangerous world upon which she touched.
However, it is appropriate that we should open the debate on the gracious Speech by addressing international affairs, because foreign and domestic issues are becoming more and more inter-linked. The opinion pollsters tell us that no one is really interested in foreign affairs. But, of course, they ask the wrong questions. The reality is that what happens in relation to the issues that we are discussing today influences intimately the business mood, life on the high street, our daily lives, our social affairs, our taxes, spending prices and the future of our politics. So we are starting at the right point with an overarching view that embraces the whole foreign and domestic scene.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that we have learnt in the past year—between the previous gracious Speech and this one—is that the frontiers of our freedom, safety and security have radically shifted. We now live in an infinitely more complex foreign affairs, defence and security environment. We used to think that our front lines were mainly on the Elbe and in central Europe and our faith was in the NATO shield. True, the foundations of our security remain collective, but not only is NATO changing radically, as the noble Baroness said and as will be discussed in the forthcoming Prague gathering on NATO reform, but the frontiers to be defended have moved both further away and, at the same time, much nearer home.
We now confront immediate danger to our citizens and our lives both in the mountains of Afghanistan and on the high street. Instability in Africa, central Asia and even the Pacific region directly threaten our survival, while at the same time homeland defence against terrorist acts in our cities and towns has once again loomed massive in importance—as military planners have belatedly recognised with their renewed interest in the Territorials and reservists, who have been cut repeatedly over the years under successive governments. We are now beginning once again to understand and respect their vital role.
I shall concentrate on three themes from the gracious Speech, all mentioned by the noble Baroness. The first is the Middle East situation and Iraq—the horrors of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the surrounding penumbra of terrorist, hatred and anti-Americanism with which it is infused. The second is the contribution that we in this country are making in those fields—in particular, the contribution of our Armed Forces and their equipment—in readiness and preparation for what is clearly to come. Thirdly, I shall consider a matter to which the noble Baroness devoted some time, which is the value added, as it were, in the handling of those issues crucial to our national security by current European Union developments and plans, the work of the convention and the stream of new proposals to reorganise and reshape the European Union in the face of its prospective enlargement to 25 nations.
Given time, I shall also say a word about the increasing feebleness and dismal incompetence of the Government during the Gibraltar saga, which now has an almost farcical quality. In the words of the excellent House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, we have achieved the worst of all worlds, with both Gibraltar and Spain deeply alienated, everyone feeling cross and all our aims set far back. I shall return to that later, if I have time.
Obviously, I should also like to say a word about Zimbabwe, where our feeble policy is allowing the entire New Partnership for Africa's Development, which was mentioned in the gracious Speech, to be undermined. The result of that and the Zimbabwean crisis is making the already appalling drought much worse and increasing rather than reducing suffering. My noble friend Lord Astor will speak in much greater depth on both those subjects, as well as on that other great strand of world policy, underdevelopment and its main cause, which is bad governance, when he winds up the debate.
My first theme is Iraq and the Middle East. As I said the other day, we strongly welcome the United Nations resolution and the reply through the post from Baghdad—although, Saddam being a congenital liar like Matilda, who,
"told such Dreadful Lies
It made one Gasp and Stretch one's Eyes", cannot resist telling a whopper right at the outset. There will be many more half truths, dissembling and some difficult calls to make for those who want the matter to be sensibly progressed during the coming weeks.
I strongly support a point made by the noble Baroness and the Foreign Secretary, which is that the truly credible threat of force behind the resolution has been the key to getting movement so far. Anyone who thinks that Saddam would have moved an inch if it had not been for the strong credibility—the visible signs—that we were prepared to use military force deludes himself. I know that many Members of your Lordships' House—perhaps in all parties—and people outside Parliament have questioned the threat of force. However sincere they are, they have not understood the point that every doubt uttered about using military force immediately encourages Iraq to flout the UN again, making violence, instability and warfare much more likely, not less.
Nor have some of the doubters understood that international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are all part of the same culture of mindless hatred and fanatical murder. The Prime Minister did not emphasise that point when he first spoke about the dossier on and the need to do something about Iraq, but now he appears to have got the point. I am glad that the Government are now emphasising, as they did not originally, that weapons of mass destruction and the terrorist mentality are two new terrifying developments that, when they come together, threaten us all.
I have full respect for those who argue that the Israel-Palestine tragedy must also be addressed and that we must not be distracted from it, but with Saddam curbed or even removed and a new sense of moderation and co-operation running from Turkey, where there is a new government, through a more pluralist Iraq to a more enlightened Syria, which seems to be changing its views, the chances of progress with Palestine and Israel will be immeasurably increased. Those things go together.
Secondly, how do we in Britain prepare to be part of that credible threat, to help in the use of military force? We all know that our Armed Forces have unmatched personnel who risk their lives for us. We must never forget that for a moment, but we must ask whether we are fulfilling our side of the bargain and sending them into battle with the best possible equipment. In the words of the noble Baroness, are we equipping them to meet today's challenges?
At present, some of our troops are having to give up their leave to perform firefighting duties using machines that when I see them on the streets look suspiciously like something out of Thomas the Tank Engine. I hope that they will be able to manage. However, in the longer term and more seriously, I recognise that valuable lessons were learnt during Exercise Saif Sareea in Oman and that the smart acquisition procurement cycle has had its successes in the military. However, when I asked the National Audit Office, the House of Lords Library and other experts for a short list of some problem projects, the papers with which I was supplied were so voluminous that I could not even pick up my briefcase. The list is vast. I shall name only a few from an enormous list of problems with the provision of equipment.
As a result of Exercise Saif Sareea, we know that some of our trucks boil over, Challenger tanks get full of sand—although we hear that that is being corrected—boots melt, and rifles jam—there are now doubts even about the modified SA80, the A2. Signal equipment is still ancient. Bowman is coming but Clansman is inadequate for placing an expeditionary force in the Gulf.
As for bigger equipment, Apaches are mothballed because of lack of pilots and damage themselves with debris when they shoot their missiles. Lynxes are grounded, so we have Apaches with no pilots and pilots for Lynxes but no aircraft. Merlins have operational difficulties. Half of our frigates and destroyers are unavailable. Nimrod's wings do not fit. The Sea Harrier is to be scrapped. The upgraded Tornado has trouble with its missiles. The Eurofighter is over-running its cost by £1.9 billion—that is a minimum estimate; some say that the figure is much higher—costing £19 billion in total. Then we have the Joint Strike Fighter—I fully appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, Minister of State for Defence, is at present in the United States dealing with that issue.
I do not know whether we need all those vast, manned fighters for our future equipment, but they certainly drain money away. Now, according to the Daily Telegraph of 2nd November—I would like to know whether there is any authenticity in the report—the Chancellor is telling military chiefs that we do not have the money to mount a full expedition with full equipment to the Gulf anyway. That will not be surprising, if half of the things that I read out are correct. We are entitled to, at least, some assurances that some of the matters are being addressed in a way that will ensure that, as the noble Baroness said, our troops are fully equipped for today's challenges.
I would also like to hear in the winding-up speech how many reservists will be needed to get the expeditionary force into the Gulf for the attack on Iraq, if we are to make a serious contribution alongside the Americans and others. We hope that that attack will not come, but it may be needed.
The Secretary of State for Defence has also said that we must consider seriously the issues that arise for us from developments in ABM technology and the need for American bases here to be upgraded. Can we be assured that that is all going ahead and not told that no formal decision has been requested from the Americans? In his latest pronouncements, the Secretary of State has encouraged us to consider such matters. How is all that going?
I turn now to the enlargement of the European Union. We will deal with the accession treaty Bill in the coming year. I have two initial comments. First, it seems to me, having spent some time at the EU institutions and in Brussels in the past few weeks, that there is a conviction that a larger European Union means more centralisation and more power to the central European institutions. It is a deep conviction. I believe that the opposite is the case and that that view is fundamentally wrong. The obsessive hunt for a single foreign policy is a distraction, and the demand for integration of the third pillar—which one hears all the time in Brussels—into a single structure is dangerous.
The other day, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, urged Britain to speak for Europe. That is crying for the moon. In the present situation, Britain speaks for Europe neither on Iraq nor on many other issues. EU spokesmen certainly do not speak for us. Mr Schroder has called for the "German way" in dealing with Iraq; that is not our way. France is ploughing a completely different furrow. We need a realistic understanding of our differences, if we are to make a serious contribution in that area. It is good that the mantra of ever-closer union has, at last, been discarded, but the convention keeps calling, as the noble Baroness mentioned, for a single pillar, combining defence and foreign policy in a "communitised" system. That would be unacceptable, and I hope that the Government hold that view too. We need an assurance on that, before we are told one morning that the whole matter has been conceded.
The concern to create a European superpower is an elitist's dream. It is utterly remote from the people of Europe and will not bring a single benefit to Europe's citizens. There is, in some quarters, total failure to understand that the real need is to bring power back to national parliaments and ensure that democracy and accountability are not pushed onto the back seats, as they sometimes appear to be in the convention's discussions. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights has, apparently, now been accepted, although it was once described as being no more important than the Beano. If we incorporate that into the proposed new constitution and treaty, it will not add in any way to human liberties. In some circumstances, the piling on of additional rights is so unbalanced that it will reduce those liberties.
I hope for an absolute assurance from the Government that, when the new constitution being brewed up—in effect, a huge new European treaty—comes along in a year or so from now, there will be a referendum here. The people of Britain must be allowed to make their views known by that means. We are also utterly opposed to any new powers to arrest and extradite British citizens for activities that are not crimes in this country.
After terrorism, the second greatest danger is the deepening divide between the European Union and America. The noble Baroness mentioned the ESDP. Some say that the Prime Minister has lost interest in that scheme, but the damage has been done. Ministers still assert that ESDP does not weaken NATO, while the Americans warn us that it weakens American enthusiasm for working and engaging with Europe. They ask why we have created an autonomous capability outside NATO.
It has brought a heap of problems, which I have been dealing with in Brussels in the past few days. There is the issue of Turkey, which has been stirred up to fever pitch by Giscard d'Estaing's unwise remarks, just when there is a new, more balanced government in Ankara who might help us to solve the Cyprus situation with their interesting idea of having Swiss-type cantons. That has all been embittered by the ESDP issue. There is the American call for a NATO response force. I do not see how that is supposed to fit in with the European rapid reaction force, unless our troops are to be triple-hatted. The common agricultural policy is still with us and is likely to be so for many years. It will not be changed as some of us—including, I think, the Government—hoped. Meanwhile, the centre Left in Europe has been singing the wrong tune about George Bush. Amid the usual anti-American chorus, he is proving to be a powerful statesman and a winning politician. It sometimes seems that, while the Asians and others worry that American foreign policy will fail to meet its peace-keeping aims, too many Europeans fear that it will succeed.
I have no time to comment on the euro, about which the noble Baroness spoke. We do not think much of the five tests. The real issue is stability against the dollar, a currency that is more important—1.6 times more important—for our exports than the euro. All that must be debated in the Chamber. Some misleading figures have been given from the Government Benches.
There is a paradox at the centre of global affairs. The US is the most powerful state, but it is also the most vulnerable. Our medium size and agility are valuable adjuncts that would be seriously damaged, if we were to become entangled in a dinosaur of a European superpower. World security requires the partnership of US might and UK agility. The stupidest reaction of all in the present dangerous conditions would be for the European leadership to try to rival or emulate the US and create another superpower. The applicant states understand that better, in many ways, than do the leading policy-makers in some other continental capitals. Our best contributions to world peace are the confidence and the qualities that we have as the British people.
Of course, the US cannot go it alone; we have known that all along and have said so. There is a need for our qualities in dealing not only with Iraq but with Zimbabwe, which I mentioned. We should take the lead in the Commonwealth and not just wring our hands. We should also take the lead over Gibraltar, where our nerve and our diplomatic skills seem to have failed us. I hope that, whatever the noble Baroness said, the present plan will be dropped.
It is now time to explain simply to our Spanish friends and neighbours that the best way of handling the Gibraltarians is to be nicer to them and not to bully them—or, indeed, us. We should be firm, friendly but unwavering in safeguarding the freedom, prosperity and security of our people. That is the way to a better relationship all round. On Gibraltar, we should drop the talks and start again. I hope that our foreign policy makers and Ministers have, at least, learnt that lesson in the past year and will apply it with more success in the year to come.
My Lords, we must start the debate with the most immediate issue: the Middle East and the potential war with Iraq. I congratulate the Government on their efforts to ensure that there was a successful UN resolution that could be adopted by unanimity. It was worth the effort, the countless telephone calls and the weeks of delay. To witness Syria voting for that resolution and then the Arab League meeting to bring pressure on Iraq shows what can be done through effective multilateral co-operation. We all recognise that the British Government have played a very constructive role in this, and for that it has our full support.
The first result of that massive effort has been that Iraq has been forced by its neighbours and partners, as much as by the rest of the world community, to accept inspection on the terms laid down in a very tough resolution. I was rather shaken yesterday to be telephoned by an American reporter, who will be accompanying President Bush to Prague, and asked whether the Europeans were going to stick with this rather vague UN resolution. In response to that I ask: 'have you read it?' This is a very detailed and tough resolution. It gives us the way forward and if there are those in Washington who think that this is not a serious operation then we have to be tough with our American allies and say this is the path down which we go.
None of us, of course, has any illusions that this will be a tough and continuing process with many twists and turns in the coming months. The immediate prospect of war has been averted, but we all recognise that the threat of force remains necessary to ensure compliance. So Liberal Democrats support necessary military preparations provided that these remain within the framework of the United Nations Security Council resolution and provided that any move towards the use of force will be taken within the context of multilateral co-operation, not of a unilateral American assessment followed by Britain alone. We have set out to manage the problem of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq through multilateral institutions, so far successfully. We should continue down that path, holding the international community together as well as we can.
I have also been surprised and unnerved by the extent to which there are those in Washington who wish to refer to Saddam Hussein as a madman totally outside the possibilities of any compromise. All the evidence, as I am glad to see that the US administration's psychological adviser on Saddam Hussein himself admits, is that Saddam Hussein is a rational actor who recognises that survival is an important part of his future plans.
Therefore, we welcome the effort that the Government are making to insist that inspections shall be the road down which we go, but that inspections have to be accepted on the terms of the UN resolution. We also welcome the Minister's reaffirmation that problems of weapons of mass destruction and of Iraq are not the same as those of international terrorism, even if there are many indirect links between them, and that effective inspection in Iraq, or even a regime change, will not resolve the problems of international terrorism.
We, in the United Kingdom, and our allies and partners, also have to address the wider context of relations between the western democracies and the Middle East and the Muslim world as a whole. Therefore, we welcomed the Prime Minister's restatement in his Lord Mayor's banquet speech of Britain's approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, reminding us of President Bush's speech of last June with its clear commitment to a two-state solution and to a viable Palestinian state, which must mean a withdrawal from many of the recent Israeli settlements, not just another promise of a halt in their further expansion. We know, sadly, that there are those in Israel who wish to push the Palestinians out of the Occupied Territories and claim the whole of the land west of the Jordan for a Jewish state. We must spell out very clearly that any move towards permanent occupation, let alone towards expulsion of substantial proportions of the population, would be condemned by the whole international community.
We all recognise that there is an unavoidable link between the bitter and longstanding Israeli/Palestinian dispute and relations with the rest of the Middle East. The West has to be seen, as the Prime Minister also rightly said, to be concerned with the implementation of all UN resolutions towards the region if we are to carry other Arab governments and their publics with us on Iraq.
We also welcome from these Benches the efforts that the Government have been putting in—in particular the Foreign Secretary—on maintaining a dialogue with Iran. We do not see Iran as part of the axis of evil: we see it as a state internally divided, in which it is very much in the interests of the West to encourage those progressive elements who wish to move towards a more open relationship with their partners.
We also want to see our Government and others pursue the agenda opened up by the UN Development Programme Arab Human Development Report; not, as again some in Washington have suggested, a recipe for imposing western democracy across the region immediately through forced regime change, but an intelligent admission from Arab experts of the underlying problems of authoritarian regimes attempting economic modernisation without social progress or political reform. We clearly need a broad co-operative strategy to take that agenda forward.
Furthermore, we should do everything we can to promote a closer dialogue between the West and the Muslim world as a whole. Again, we welcome the Prime Minister's references to inter-faith dialogue and the role of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey of Clifton, in the Alexandria Process. There is a great deal more to be done here, including with our own Muslim community within Britain.
I just want to repeat what we on these Benches have said before, our enemy in this—the enemy of liberalism, of democracy, of civilisation— is fundamentalism, not Islam. Christian fundamentalism lurks dangerously on the conservative right of American politics. Jewish fundamentalism supports the expansion of Israeli settlements across the whole of Gaza and the West Bank and dismisses the rights and interests of the Palestinians. Muslim fundamentalism drives international terror attacks against the West.
In all of that, and in much of the rest of Britain's foreign policy, we can achieve little on our own. British foreign policy is far more effective when it is conducted in co-operation with others than when we attempt to stand in splendid isolation, as it seems to me so often the Conservatives appear to prefer. There have been occasions in the previous Session when I have wondered whether the foreign policy of the Conservative Party was concerned with Zimbabwe, Gibraltar and very little else. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Howell, ranging more widely today, although I have to say the underlying anti-European tone of his remarks did worry me considerably. I would be sorry to hear the Conservative Party going quite so far into almost a hope that the European Union will fail so that we can follow America as a passive partner, rather than what many in Washington, as the President will say in Prague, want from the Europeans; that is, an active partner which is capable of working together with the United States. And that requires the Europeans to work together.
The Prime Minister has put in great efforts over the past few months in co-operating with the United States. I was struck to hear on a radio programme a Republican congressman refer to the argument between the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis and the Powell/Blair axis. If I were the Prime Minister I would be very happy with that definition. I think that there were some disadvantages in working quite so far behind the scenes. Our Government, and others, have to be concerned about the unnerving quality of the public debate within Washington—how frenzied it is, how many subjects are not being discussed there—and we need, as America's partners, to be taking part in their public debate as well as in their private influence.
However, I worry that some of that has been at the cost of neglecting Britain's partners. If the United Kingdom is to act as an effective bridge between Europe and the United States we have to ensure that the footings remain firm on both sides. There is, after all, a heavy European agenda for the coming weeks and months. We have the NATO summit in Prague on 14th and 15th November. Thankfully, enlargement is already a done deal, but the American proposal for what is now called a NATO response force is an important challenge to Europeans. Here again, I disagree strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. It seems to be clear that the American proposal for the NATO response force fits in quite well with further progress towards an ESDP. It is a different rapid reaction force for a different purpose and it is important that Europeans respond positively to that.
I do, however, agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that there have been occasions in the past two years when it has seemed as though the Prime Minister has forgotten that the St Malo initiative was his and that Britain has appeared to go a little cool on closer European defence integration. We on these Benches are quite clear that if we want to use our own defence efforts more effectively, and to persuade our European partners to spend their limited defence budgets more effectively, closer defence integration is the way forward.
That is not to talk about a European army. It is, however, to remark, for example, that in any potential conflict in Iraq British forces would rely on medical units from other European countries because we do not have enough, and we ought to be pleased that medical units from other European forces are available to work with the British. I was immensely puzzled by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that what we really want is a looser common foreign policy and a looser European Union. What we get from Washington is an increasing demand that Europeans as a group should play a larger role in sharing the common burden. That is among many other reasons why we on these Benches support a more effective common foreign and security policy, including a more effective European defence policy.
We then move on to the Copenhagen European Council on 12th and 13th December when the European Union has to deal with the final bargain on enlargement; a major development bringing 10 former socialist states into the European Union. What distresses Liberal Democrats most about that is the extent to which the broader vision has been lost. There is haggling about agriculture, about the budget and even about the British rebate. There is a suggestion that we ought to be concerned that these new members should not be net contributors in the first year after they join. However, there is no sense of generosity and no sense of the historic nature of extending security, democracy and prosperity from western Europe across to the East. I regret that none of the leaders in Europe, including our own, has yet begun to talk about enlargement in those terms. I hope that the British Prime Minister, when he goes to Copenhagen, will at least attempt to raise the debate to that level.
On the convention, to which the Minister has referred, my noble friend Lord Maclennan will no doubt say a good deal more than me. However, I want briefly to say that this Government have said from the outset that they wish to strengthen the role of national parliaments in the European Union, but they have seemed remarkably reluctant to inform their own national Parliament of the proposals which they were making to the convention. I hope that at the end of the debate the Minister will assure us that we will have an early debate in this House on progress in the convention and that the Government will report their current attitude to the proposals under discussion in the convention. It is already halfway through and a number of reports have already been published and we ought to be allowed to have our say.
We also welcome the reference in the Queen's Speech to reaching finally some sort of conclusion on the five tests for the euro. We on these Benches greatly hope that those conclusions will be favourable and we look forward to a referendum. I was pleased to see in the newspapers reports of the visit of a committee from the other place to Paris and of the constructive proposals that the French were making to welcome the British into the euro on favourable terms. That is a historic political and economic decision which we hope the British will soon be making.
There are many other topics to which we will return in the course of the Session. I refer, for instance, to other aspects of weapons of mass destruction; the stricter control on and the reduction of arms sales; the question of the International Criminal Court; and of course the longer term challenge to Africa. I want to say from these Benches that we have all been immensely impressed by how hard the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, has worked on the problems of Africa and how effective her efforts have been in the extremely difficult circumstances of where we now are in southern Africa. We have no illusions that it is easy, given the colonial past, to deal with the current government in Zimbabwe. We recognise the mixture of political and economic difficulties.
In the longer term, the challenge of Africa for Britain and our European neighbours is one of the most serious we must face. It is not purely a matter of altruism; it is clearly also a matter of self-interest. When states collapse, their educated and determined population arrives on the shores of Europe and many of them end up in London. When governments fail to be able to look after their populations, epidemics spread across borders. So we strongly support the Government's efforts to strengthen NePAD and the Johannesburg conference on world development.
Finally, we also want to compliment the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the extent to which its recruitment has opened up to an entirely new diverse section of our society. In particular, I am pleased to know that we are now able to staff our temporary post in Mecca each year entirely with Muslim members of the British Diplomatic Service. In view of the fact that graduate recruiters tell me that entering the Diplomatic Service is the single most popular choice for graduates now leaving university, that is all welcome news. Well done.
We on these Benches support an active foreign policy for Britain which must also be an internationalist foreign policy. We see that policy as rooted in closer co-operation with our European neighbours and partners working to build a common foreign policy and a common European defence policy. Those European states together must operate to maintain trans-Atlantic partnership with the United States to promote an equitable international order which must be based on stronger international institutions and a full respect for international law.
My Lords, we are at a very serious moment in international affairs and I should like to look in particular at Iraq and Al'Qaeda.
If one has followed, as I and others have, the detail of the manoeuvrings of the Saddam regime before, during and since the Gulf War, as well as understanding the full horror of the nature of that regime, then the current UN resolution is fully understandable in all its terms. Some have been taken aback by the stark and detailed demands in it and have called it a resolution for war. Well, it is only that if Saddam makes it so. Its terms are the way they are for two reasons.
The first reason is that the detailed requirements are based on the bitter experiences of the UN weapons inspectors over the years before they finally had to give up in 1998. That is why there are such words as "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records and means of transport" and so forth, and why the resolution also provides for discretion to conduct interviews inside or outside Iraq without the presence of observers from the Iraqi Government. Behind all these words lie real experiences from the past, where we saw the UN inspectors thwarted from carrying out their UN mandate by every trick in the book being pulled by the Iraqis.
We can only wish Dr Hans Blix well as chair of UNMOVIC. I know him, from my time as a British diplomat in Stockholm in the early 1970s, as a studiously correct member of his Foreign Office, and with his academic background and experience as a Swedish Foreign Minister he will be ideally placed to provide a calm and objective assessment of what he finds. It is, I have to say, a compliment to Sweden and its foreign service that it also provided my very good friend and outstanding diplomat, Rolf Ekeus, as a chair of UNSCOM in the earlier, very difficult days with Iraq.
The second reason why the UN resolution has to be so explicit and uncompromising is that there is no point at all in trying to be diplomatically subtle with the Saddam regime. Many of us will remember how the unfortunate US ambassador to Baghdad was blamed, in my view unfairly, for not spelling out to Saddam what the reaction would be if he invaded Kuwait. She had conveyed the message in diplomatic terms, although one would have thought clearly enough.
Saddam is a man who does not just fail to get the message when a spade is called a spade. He fails to get the message unless he is hit with a shovel. Those who find the resolution too warlike also think that there should have been a bridge left for him to walk, but there is no bridge he wants except that which will lead to him keeping his weapons of mass destruction. The efficiency of his terror machine is such that the last thing he needs to worry about, so long as that machine is intact, is Iraqi public opinion.
It is difficult for people living in a democracy to begin to comprehend the all pervasive power of terror. It is amazing how you will see things one way if the only alternative is a horrible end, not just for yourself, but for your whole extended family. That is the reality of Saddam's terror machine and we should not be misled by the misuse of words like "parliament". The UN Security Council resolution is, in my opinion, excellent. Who would have believed beforehand that it would be adopted unanimously? It is an outstanding achievement of the professional diplomats involved, who all deserve our congratulations.
Before leaving Iraq, I should like to address one issue often raised—the difference between UN resolutions on Iraq and other situations, especially Israel and the Palestinians. It is very important to be precise and not speak loosely about this. As I said in the debate in your Lordships' House on 24th September, the resolutions on Iraq are of a special nature—they are different from other conflict situations such as Kashmir or Israel. The Iraq resolutions embody and arise out of the terms agreed for a ceasefire in a war waged on a UN mandate against Iraq, and Iraq agreed these ceasefire terms and has proceeded to evade them for the past 11 years.
Security Council resolutions concerning Iraq are all based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which covers,
"Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace and Acts of Aggression".
Chapter VII provides for the use of coercive force to counter these threats, in the form of economic or military sanctions or authorising collective military action. Every resolution the Security Council passed on Iraq came under Chapter VII.
None of the resolutions relating to the Israeli/Arab conflict come under Chapter VII. They are mainly under Chapter VI, which is for the peaceful settlement of disputes. The famous resolutions 242 and 338 call on all the parties to negotiate a peace settlement—that puts the responsibility not just on Israel to act. Having said that, I want to make it very clear that I want a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in his speech to the Labour Party conference about UN resolutions applying to the Israeli/Palestinian situation:
"They don't just apply to Israel, they apply to all parties".
And, he said, the aims of final status negotiations should be,
"an Israeli state, free from terror, recognised by the Arab world, and a viable Palestinian state based on the boundaries of 1967".
I hope we can all agree with that.
To turn to Al'Qaeda, as widely reported there has been a regrouping in the usual loose decentralised manner of Al'Qaeda under six leaders who appear to have taken over operative command of the network's military and financial planning, while whoever still survives of the senior leadership, including perhaps Osama bin Laden, are on the run or in hiding. According to some reports, out of 31 original commanders, six are dead, six are in captivity and 19 are unaccounted for.
The six who seem to have emerged now from cover are two Egyptians, two Yemenis, although one of them may be a Saudi, one Jordanian and one Indonesian. What is known of their CVs makes impressive, if chilling, reading. Time prevents me from going into details today.
So, as all of us realise, Al'Qaeda has not gone away, and it will not go away for some considerable time. As the Guildhall speech on Monday evening by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made all too clear, we are in for a long haul and it is for us all to play whatever part we can.
I would just like to make a plea for understanding of the enormously difficult task faced by all our public servants involved and, in particular, our intelligence and security service officers. It would be helpful if the media did not always rush to judgment and ask what went wrong, but reflect that it never knows when, as very often happens, things go right. The nature of intelligence on terrorism is particularly uncertain, based often on doubtful sources and giving only pieces of a very incomplete jigsaw, and always having to be assessed as to whether it is false or deliberate disinformation. Because the stakes are so high the pressures are sometimes almost unbearable. We should appreciate how fortunate we are in having such outstanding professional services at our disposal and for our defence.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, in the debate and to pay tribute to the clarity and moderation with which she has presented some very important arguments. I reflect on the fact, I think correctly, that she spent quite a substantial part of her life in the Diplomatic Service. One is bound to wonder whether the nation would have been better served by her continued presence there or by her wisdom being available to us in this House. We start from a good beginning anyway. I thank the Minister for her introduction and noble Lords who have spoken subsequently.
I cannot compete with the ambitious, omnivorocity of my noble friend Lord Howell but I certainly endorse his despair at the way in which the Gibraltar negotiations were conducted. There should be no apology for having started down that road—which is, after all, one that I designed—but there is much grief at the lack of finesse, to put it mildly, with which the operation was conducted. I say this with great regret in the presence of the noble Baroness, who understands the position.
Every noble Lord who has spoken so far has drawn attention to the huge changes that have taken place since we last debated this subject on a Queen's Speech. It is impossible to exaggerate them. The most important, of course, is that the central, horrid problem of Iraq is being handled down the United Nations route and with the support of a unanimous resolution from the Security Council. It is a necessarily tough resolution, as others have sought to explain.
It is interesting to reflect on a letter written to President Clinton nearly five years ago in January 1998 urging a change in his policy. Among other things, it stated that,
"American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council".
The signatories to that letter included Richard Armitage, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Robert Zoellick. We have moved a long way since then and the present Secretary of State and the present President of the United States deserve to be congratulated on that important change, as do, indeed, our own Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary and all the diplomats who helped to bring the resolution about.
It is important to put that problem in a wider context, recognising, of course, that that is the context in which British forces may see action within months. The central point is that, throughout it all, restraint will be as necessary as resolution, wisdom as necessary as determination, if the authority and unity of the international partnership is to be maintained as it must be.
That brings me to a question which may, at first sight, distress my noble friend Lord Howell. It concerns the imbalance in global power which makes it difficult always to be sure that we are handling these issues right, starting with a word about our closest ally—the country with which we have been more often involved in conflict against others than any other—the United States. The huge imbalance in power reflected by the massive strength of that country must be a cause of concern. American military expenditure, leaving all the soft power on one side, is greater than that of the next eight largest military powers combined.
I was struck by an article which appeared in the New York Times last spring, which was written by one of our distinguished historians, Timothy Garton Ash, entitled The peril of too much power. This is an important point and I make it without apology. He said:
"America today has too much power for anyone's good, including its own".
Before I go any further, I stress that I say that out of no hostility whatever to the United States. Indeed, most of my life has been devoted in one way or another to working with Americans and in admiration of their country. But Garton Ash went on to express concern:
"It would be dangerous even for an archangel to wield so much power. The writers of the American Constitution wisely determined that no single locus of power, however benign, should predominate ... Every power should therefore be checked by at least one other".
Who and what in today's world is to provide that balance? The international institutions certainly; and they have played an important part in it. But, alone, they are not credible. There can be only one answer: Europe—the collective civilisations from which America itself was born but which make up the European Union. If it did not exist, it would have to be invented.
I immediately make it plain to my noble friend that I am not calling for a European superpower of the kind that he sometimes fears so much. What we have created is already a major economic power, and is a major force to our benefit in trade negotiations and in the aid market. But we must acknowledge that, in terms of military capacity, the gap between the nations of the European Union and the United States is catastrophic. That sits uneasily with the history of the past two or three decades.
I remember confrontations, if one may put it that way, at one NATO meeting at Halifax some years ago, in which Hans van den Broek, the benign Netherlands Foreign Minister, was rash enough to quote a public opinion poll in his country. People had said by 60 per cent to 12 per cent that the United States was more aggressive than the Soviet Union. Noble Lords may imagine the response of George Shultz. He said in due course that he would go on being "correctly aggressive" in support of American interests and in giving leadership to the alliance. I admired him for that. But the alliance has changed since then: the links that bind us, the interests that we have, are not the same as they were. The principal threat that provided the glue for the old structure of NATO has gone and the relative strength of the European and American members has moved adversely ever since.
The position has been analysed with great clarity by the chairman of the European Task Force on European Defence, Julian Lindley-French, in an article in the latest issue of International Affairs. He draws attention to the American view, which thinks in terms of "conflict inevitability", and to the European view which, alas, thinks in terms of "conflict myopia". It is against that background that the United States has massively re-armed while within Europe there has been steady disarmament under the rubric of "sharing the peace dividend". We have been juggling with a series of initials—CFSP and ESDP—as though that kind of institution-mongering, as though subtly-worded texts of communiques, are going to answer the question. My fear—again I borrow a word from the author whom I have just quoted—is that all the European efforts in this direction are in danger of being "WEU-ified". I spent some four or five years trying to help to breathe life into that set of initials and it did not get us very far.
I stress that there is nothing anti-American in what I am saying. It is part of an attempt to inspire, or at least to urge, our present Government to maintain a stronger commitment than they have thus shown to vitalising and energising the European share in NATO and to get our partners to do so.
I can join my noble friend Lord Howell—and we are truly friends—in denouncing many of the shortcomings of many of our partners in the European Union. But the answer is not therefore to despair of that organisation, but to be even more emphatic as regards the need to achieve what we really want from that.
I had intended to refer briefly to the Middle Eastern problem. However, I shall respect the pleas on all sides for compliance with our time resolution and conclude my remarks. I am confident that the noble Lord, Lord Wright, will hardly allow that issue to be neglected.
My Lords, I have the happy opportunity of following the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. His geopolitical perspective is congenial to my own view and closer to my own perspective than that enunciated from the Front Bench by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. Indeed, it is a happy prelude to what I feel I ought to say to your Lordships about the work of the Convention on the Future of Europe to which the noble Baroness happily referred in her opening speech.
It is right to recognise that, in respect of the future of Europe, the citizens of Europe—if their opinions can be measured at all effectively across the now 15 countries, perhaps to be 25—would appear to favour greater coherence in the delivery of a common foreign policy. No sphere of European intervention is more clearly understood or more urgently desired. That is said against the background of all the evident inconsistencies, weaknesses and incoherences which enable the noble Lord, Lord Howell, not inaccurately to describe the limited capabilities which the European Union has brought to bear upon the great international crises that have plagued our debates since the previous Queen's Speech.
Not only is there a predisposition to accept the competence of Europe in these fields; there is also a strong desire on the part of member governments to act more coherently and more effectively in support of United States policies when they are seen, as they have been, to be leading the world in defence against the international terrorism of 9/11, the threat of the possession and use by Iraq, in defiance of the United Nations, of weapons of mass destruction.
It is wise to recall the instant response of the European Union to the events of September last year. In that short space of time there was an evident willingness to shoulder global responsibilities in Europe. Efforts were made to co-ordinate humanitarian and reconstruction aid. Troika delegations were sent to the countries bordering Afghanistan and to central Asia. It is a fact that the biggest donor of aid to Afghanistan is Europe. Through the efforts of the High Representative, Javier Solana, the conflict for a management profile of the European Union has been remarkably strengthened within the quartet.
It is right to recognise that the Laeken European Council has sought to take that process forward: to develop the operational capability of the ESDP, the conflict prevention tools, the diplomatic role of the troika and an improved early warning system, and the rapid reaction mechanism to provide initial financing. These are valuable steps in the right direction.
It is clear that at present Europe is not in a position to react in a consistent, coherent and effective way, given the huge gulf, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, referred, between the military capabilities of the United States and those of the constituent member countries of the European Union. That is why from the beginning there has been a sharp focus in the Convention on the Future of Europe on how these competencies ought to be strengthened.
One of the very first reports to emerge from a working group under the chairmanship of former prime minister Giuliano Amato was on attributing to the European Union a single legal personality. Thus, it is advocating the effective ascription to Europe of something that lawyers, in the event, believed to exist, but recognising, more importantly, the need for coherence in the European Union's exercise of its diplomatic initiatives and in the support that needs to be given to whoever is to take the lead, be it the high representative, the presidency or a permanent president, as adumbrated by the Prime Minister. Out of that debate, in which I played a part, came a clear recognition that the present arrangements, which fracture the deliberations and negotiations—a suitable example has been the trade and co-operation negotiations with Iran—are not the most effective way to bring to bear upon the international scene all the economic, political and security strengths that are needed in the construction of new relationships. Most observers recognise the value of the role of the office of the high representative and how effectively it has been discharged. As we build that office, we should not see a bifurcation of the bureaucracies between the forces of the high representatives and the council and those of the Commission on the other side. There is a need to bring together these constituent elements of effectiveness.
The debate is continuing in a working group in the convention under the chairmanship of Jean-Luc Dehaene, the former prime minister of Belgium. A report is anticipated shortly, in the preparation of which Mr Peter Hain has played a part. I do not doubt that it will underline the desirability of seeking to unify the preparation and delivery of foreign policy initiatives and giving a greater reality to the common foreign and security policy. It will do that by addressing the unsatisfactory aspects of the budgetary arrangements that are necessary to provide the sinews to make effective the interventions of forces. That applies whether they be peace-keeping forces on a very modest scale such as in Macedonia, or the wider ambitions that the council may have.
It would be valuable to hear this House's views on these matters. I hope that there will be an early opportunity to consider how the common interests of Europe in the delivery of effective foreign policy can best be delivered. It is not possible to develop these arguments at length in the time that is available today.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to commend whole-heartedly and fully Her Majesty's Government's policy on Iraq. It has been an extremely difficult period, not just over the past few weeks and months but ever since the need to impose a no-fly zone in the north and south following the appalling attack on the Kurds in 1991. That policy has virtually run out on us. We were sustaining it because there was nothing better. But sanctions were no longer having any effect, massive leakage of oil was going out from Iraq through Turkey, Syria, Jordan and the Gulf. It was also becoming increasingly hard to persuade people that they should make available airfields in surrounding countries.
This resolution, as was eloquently described by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, every word of whose speech I agreed with, is a great tribute to two statesmen in particular: President Bush and our Prime Minister. But it also a tribute to the Diplomatic Service in the Foreign Office and the State Department. I could not imagine a better outcome than that resolution. But I am sure no-one is under any illusion about it. There may now be serious defaults. Within that resolution there is now clear authority to take action if there is a default. It does not require another resolution, though it would of course be desirable to have one.
Elsewhere, I see a foreign policy of very clear objectives, which I totally support. I am very pleased by the proposals that have come forward from the United Nations and De Soto over Cyprus. I know that they were greatly helped by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. It seems very fair to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. I hope that it is agreed quickly. It allows me to say what I hope will be the British policy now when the new leader of the majority party in the Turkish parliament visits this country and that a way will be found to enable him to become prime minister of Turkey. I hope that Britain will make it clear that we support Turkey's membership of the European Union. Some work remains to be done on it. But we should seek when enlarging the European Union to give Turkey a firm and clear timescale for entry. I know that this will be a major challenge to the European Union. I do not say it lightly. I used to believe that Europe ended at the Bosphorus. I did not see how it would be possible to take Turkey into membership. But I also used to think it would be impossible to take in the former Soviet Union. I now believe that it is wise for the European Union to conduct itself in a way that would make it possible for Russia to become a member of the European Union so that Europe does not end at the Urals. That, too, will be an immense challenge, and the timescale for that is some distance away. Time will still be needed for Turkey's entry. But, with Greece supporting their entry, and with a new Turkish government clearly trying to help to reach a resolution in Cyprus, I believe that there will be progress and considerable achievements.
All is looking so very well in my own personal relations with the Government on foreign policy that I am even hopeful that the Treasury will look at the eurozone at the moment—and I say it without great relish—that the problems with the so-called growth and stability pact and the need for the European Central Bank to recover or to perhaps assert a greater authority that they will judge that it is not the time to put the issue in a referendum to the British people. We need a good deal more time for the eurozone itself to sort out the inevitable transition period. The technical handling of the coins and notes was very satisfactory, but there are considerable difficulties ahead.
Despite the gloomy fact that the Federal Republic of Germany has taken such a markedly different stance from us and many other European Union countries on Iraq, it is a welcome sign that the Germans are ready, with the Dutch, to take the leadership of the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan and to argue that that should be based as far as possible on NATO assets and support and to work towards a situation in which when, in six months, their role is passed on to another country it might be possible for the operation to be NATO-led. In the same way as NATO led the stabilisation force in Bosnia and Kosovo, it would include other NATO countries and possibly the Russian Federation—even in Afghanistan by then—as they have played a major part in the Balkans.
These are very important and interesting issues. I shall say no more. I apologise that I cannot stay for the end of the debate because I have to be in Prague for a debate about NATO, which has been brought about by Russia, and I shall therefore sit down and make an even smaller contribution. At the moment, British foreign policy has shown that it is possible both to be an extremely loyal and committed member of the European Union and to respect the relationships with the United States, using our independence in foreign policy and our freedom for manoeuvre as a significant country and a permanent member of the Security Council. That balance is well reflected in an extremely interesting article in today's Financial Times by its correspondent in Washington in which a White House spokesman says that we can reasonably say now that Britain is the second most influential country in the world economically, politically and diplomatically. With skill and finesse, that position can be maintained for some years ahead.
My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in apologising for not being able to attend the wind-up of today's debate. I apologise in particular to the Government Front Bench.
I was struck by the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, as she deliberated on the horrors of the Iraqi regime. Nobody in the Chamber would dare contest that. However, it made me think how extraordinarily passive many of the neighbours of Iraq have been as we have elaborated the horrors that lie ahead. I think that is because we so often look at the United States through the eyes of the first world, whereas we are confronted by a substantial number of countries with a very different outlook. They see the United States very much through the eyes of the third world. That third world view must be taken into account. We deceive ourselves if we think that that view is without justice or integrity. Those countries fear a political situation in the United States heavily dominated by influences favourable to Israel and reinforced by the powerful evangelical Christian lobby. They are apprehensive of an American economy driven by high levels of consumption.
The view on the Kyoto protocol is not the product of the administration; it is the consequence of the popular view in the United States. With that view comes a demand for resources, which focuses on oil. The relationship of the United States with the wider world in that context is fraught with warning for the western world.
In that context and given the current developments, that resentment in the third world is more evident than ever, even if it is not always powerfully expressed. It has one immediate challenge and focus: the relationship between Israel and Palestine. If there is one issue that is forcing its way to the top of the agenda, it must be once again to see what can be done to bring about a settlement in the Middle East. There is no mention of that in the Queen's Speech. I do not object to that, but, just for presentational purposes, I would have been happy to see half a phrase relating to a Middle East settlement as well as the problems of international terror.
The Palestinian issue is of growing moment. When we think of international terror, our minds turn to the tragedies in New York just over a year ago and the threats that came to us from the Home Office recently, all concentrating on what it meant for the great urban centres of the western world. However, there is a wider area that is prone to Al'Qaeda techniques. We had prior notice of what could happen in the wider world generally in Indonesia. Al'Qaeda can strike with considerable success in areas with weak governmental arrangements. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has said:
"Last year only one of 24 conflicts worldwide was, as it were, a classic war, between functioning states".
All the others were in failing states or in circumstances approximating to that. It is therefore essential that those mounting the war against Al'Qaeda must be able at least to win the hearts and minds of the third world countries that are likely to be affected. We have our own experience of confronting the IRA in Northern Ireland. We know how difficult it was to counter that when so many of the population were passive rather than active in supporting the forces of authority. When General Templer conducted magnificently successful military operations in Malaya, they were sustained by a conscientious effort to secure the hearts and minds of a population who might otherwise have been passive. That is the challenge that is now emerging.
The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said that we have strong and effective relations with the United States. Let us be clear: only the United States can bring about the circumstances for a peace settlement in the Middle East and give some equity and justice to the Palestinians. I fear that the United States currently appears all too much like a great technological giant. We are only too happy to have America's skills and technology, but they must ultimately remember that technology is not enough.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate in my new role as spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Benches on international development. I venture into this field with some trepidation, given the enormous expertise in this House, but reducing the huge imbalance between wealth and desperate poverty has to be one of the most pressing concerns of our time. This is a vital area for us to address. I am very glad that the Government have chosen to mention their international development programme in the Queen's Speech.
The Government talk about the Johannesburg agreements. They say that they will focus on tackling climate change and finding new ways to meet our energy needs. That is clearly welcome. So, too, is the pledge to work for a more effective global effort to reduce poverty. The Government also state that Britain's aid budget will be increased; that, too, is very welcome. However, will that increase be significant? Will this be new money, or does this relate to commitments that have already been given? In relation to that, can the noble Baroness say when she believes the Government might reach the target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, which has been an aspiration for so long? It is surely an indictment of Britain that we are still so far adrift after all these years.
The Government further state that they intend to work for a successful outcome to the current round of world trade negotiations in a way that benefits industrialised and developing countries alike. We agree with this commitment, but are concerned that the Government have a long way to go. As the noble Baroness said in her introductory remarks, CAP reform is of course crucial to that effort. Once more, it seems to have been thrown into doubt as a result of recent events in the European Union.
There are surely few more pressing needs in the world than helping those in profound poverty. The depths of that poverty mean that when something goes wrong, it goes disastrously wrong. We can see that as, once again, we face the prospect of famine in Africa. There have been many warnings. Not enough has been done to ensure that countries are less reliant on food aid. Mechanisms for delivering the food aid, which is still so vital, are not sufficiently robust. Food aid that has been promised is not getting through to those who need it.
The World Food Programme's donor appeal for southern Africa has received only 40 percent of the required funding, and has delivered less than 14 per cent of the food aid required in that region. None of the food needed by Mozambique has got through; only 5 per cent of what Zambia needs has been delivered. As we are only too aware, Ethiopia and Eritrea are facing similar food shortages. In Ethiopia, more than 6 million people are at risk. In Eritrea, one-third of the population is at risk.
The situation in Zimbabwe is particularly difficult. The immediate priority must be to ensure that those who need food aid receive it and that political manipulation is reduced as far as possible. Overall, we have to ensure that the United Nations mechanisms, which are supposed to be in place for dealing with such emergencies, are well funded; that those assisting are well trained; and that all involved are well prepared. In the case of Zimbabwe, more must be done, particularly through the Commonwealth and the UN, to uphold the rule of law.
We all know—but it has to be made a reality if ever we are to get beyond these cycles of famine—that we have to help the poorest countries become more self-sufficient. The key to that is a reduction in debt, greater economic and political stability, and vastly improved health and education services. Debt levels remain unsustainable. The Monterrey round produced some new money, but not enough. Other aid and trade initiatives are undermined by failure to achieve more progress on the issue. NePAD provides something of a useful framework for addressing debt problems in return for progress on governance. Rewarding countries with good records on human rights and the rule of law is clearly worth while, especially if it encourages other countries to follow suit.
The poorer the country, of course, the less its people are able to sustain any kind of further misfortune. And a major tragedy of greater and greater proportions is that created by HIV/AIDS, which has reduced life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa from 62 years to 47 years. One fifth of the Zambian population is infected, yet that country is spending 30 per cent more on debt than on health. As Oxfam puts it:
"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is an unparalleled setback in human development. In the space of a few years it has rolled back the achievements of decades, destroying the lives of millions of people and compromising prospects for recovery in the process".
HIV/AIDS strikes at every aspect of society. Its public health costs are enormous, but it extends far beyond that. Those who are ill cannot easily work. They cannot support themselves or their families, or make their contribution to the greater prosperity of their society. The disease has had a disastrous effect on education. In 1999 alone, Zambia lost 1,600 teachers from AIDS. If often forces families to take their children out of school, whether because of sickness, loss of income, or to take care of sick family members. HIV/AIDS is thus creating costs that extend beyond children today to the children of tomorrow.
Women account for a large share of the population affected by HIV/AIDS. One study covering 11 African countries found that average infection rates were over five times higher among teenage girls than among teenage boys, and three times higher for women in their early twenties than for men. In parts of southern Africa, HIV prevalence among pregnant women often exceeds 30 per cent in urban areas. And almost everywhere, the burden of caring is borne disproportionately by women. Girls are taken out of school, and women out of work, to care for sick relatives. HIV/AIDS is clearly having a catastrophic effect on the prospects for Africa's future. Far more must be done to address the situation.
There are many speakers in this diverse debate today, and I realise that time is very short. Suffice to say, noble Lords on these Benches welcome much of what the Government are doing. However, we urge the Government and our international partners to recognise with increased commitment the necessity of urgent and fundamental action to tackle with long-term solutions some of the problems of the poorest countries. It is surely not only right that we do so, but also in the interest of the future stability and economic prosperity of all of us that we do so.
My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise to the House. A long-standing commitment this evening is likely to make it impossible for me to be here for the winding-up speeches.
It will not surprise your Lordships—it will certainly not surprise the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon—to know that I propose to concentrate on the situation in the Middle East. I shall not say much about the question that has understandably attracted so much attention in recent months; namely, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. I wish, however, to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for answering so clearly my earlier question about the Government's objectives in Iraq.
As the Minister knows, I was unable to be in the Chamber on the afternoon of 7th November when the Foreign Secretary's Statement on Iraq was debated. I should like briefly to add my own words of congratulations to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and my former colleague, Sir Jeremy Greenstock and his staff in New York, for the unanimous support that they managed to achieve for Security Council Resolution No. 1441.
Last week, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said:
"A few weeks ago many people thought that there was no chance of getting this before the United Nations, let alone a chance of getting a resolution, let alone a chance of getting a resolution as tough as this one".—[Official Report, 7/11/02; col. 925.]
As a former ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic and having had the privilege of discussing Iraq with President Bashar al Assad when I called on him with a parliamentary delegation in early September, I should add to the "let alone" list—
"let alone with the positive vote of the Syrian Representative on the Security Council".
That is a considerable tribute to the statesmanship of President Assad whose country has itself been a victim of both Iraqi terrorism and Israeli occupation, and to the diplomatic contacts between the Foreign Secretary and his Syrian colleague.
I wish, however, to dwell on one aspect of the Arab-Israel situation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, referred. I warmly welcome the Prime Minister's remarks in his Guildhall speech on Monday, repeated by the Minister today, when he talked of the need to move quickly toward an Israeli state recognised by all and a viable Palestinian state. However, so long as the expansion of illegal settlements continues in occupied Palestinian territory and ever more Palestinian land is absorbed behind the so-called "security fence", we shall shortly reach a situation—if indeed we have not already reached it—in which talk of a viable Palestinian state will have become meaningless.
With an election pending in Israel, it will no doubt be argued that this is a difficult if not impossible time to persuade the United States Administration to bring pressure to bear on Prime Minister Sharon, or that we should resolve the question of Iraq before making serious moves towards a peace settlement. I would argue, however, that the situation in Palestine is far too urgent for that. Furthermore, the success of the United States in following the multilateral track in Iraq, the standing of President Bush following the congressional elections and the unstinting support which the Prime Minister has given President Bush on Iraq surely give both of them a unique opportunity to bring effective and immediate pressure to bear on Prime Minister Sharon and on Foreign Minister Netanyahu to reverse a process which is creating serious and possibly fatal blockages on the roadmap towards a just and comprehensive peace settlement.
On 31st October, the Guardian reported that a recent opinion poll showed that almost four in five Israelis are prepared to dismantle almost all illegal settlements—which, as I see the Foreign Secretary confirmed in the other place, now account for an astonishing 41 per cent of the total land area in the West Bank, let alone occupied Golan. In spite of this, and in flagrant disregard of repeated calls by Senator George Mitchell and others to freeze all settlement activity, the Israeli Government continue to finance their expansion. Unless the United States Administration can be persuaded to bring effective and urgent pressure—and be seen to bring that pressure to bear—on the Israeli Government to reverse this illegal activity, then I see little prospect of any roadmap leading to anywhere other than renewed violence and killings on both sides and the continued tragic injustices of the situation in Palestine.
Can the Prime Minister not persuade President Bush of the seriousness and urgency of the need to reverse the illegal settlement policy which has been pursued, virtually without a word of criticism from Washington, by successive Israeli governments? If he can, it would give an important and much needed signal to the Arab world, and more widely to the international Muslim community, that the United States, with our encouragement, is at last ready to bring a more even-handed approach to a situation which, as I have said previously in this House, carries as great, if not a greater, threat to the security of the Middle East and to the war against terrorism as any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Indeed, it might even mitigate some of the popular backlash in the Muslim world that will inevitably follow any military action that turns out to be necessary in Iraq.
I should like to remind noble Lords of two quotations. The first is the passage in the so-called Balfour Declaration—that is, Mr Balfour's letter of 2nd November 1917 to Lord Rothschild, in which he stipulated that it should be,
"clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine".
The second is a quotation from the autobiography of Dr Weizmann, the first president of Israel, in which he said:
"I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish State by what it will do to the Arabs".
My Lords, a week ago, the Foreign Secretary said of the situation with regard to Iraq that this was a critical moment for the world and for the integrity of our system of international law. He was right. It is a noble objective to seek world peace through world law, even if that occasionally means the use of force. However, that always means, does it not, a war within the law? I should like to make four short points on this theme of international action within international law.
The first point is on the role of international law. From the Kellogg-Briand Pact up to the charter and beyond, the nations of the world have sought to avoid future conflict by collective means. The Security Council, under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, carries the primary responsibility of action to preserve international peace. This is therefore a moment of considerable congratulation for the Government and for the government of the United States on, in the midst of serious tension with Iraq, choosing the route of law and going to the Security Council. Those who criticised the Security Council's past weaknesses have had to accept its current strength. The decision was made unanimously in the pursuit of international peace.
The second point is on America and the law. How right it was for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, so clearly to identify the present power of the United States of America. I would go further and identify the consequent need for the United States to exercise its power within the law that is recognised by the countries that have to accept that power as a fact. The hegemony of such a nation carries a special burden and also a special duty of self-restraint. Power demands leadership, and good leadership demands a special self-restraint when acting with others.
The wisdom of such an approach is surely evidenced by two consequences of last week's resolution. First, the resolution shows the United States that, in the proper exercise of its own power, it can achieve its objectives with its allies and companion countries within the United Nations. Secondly, it accords with the view of the majority of the American people. In this House we often talk of the United Kingdom and America in the context of governmental relations, but ours is an alliance of people. The majority of the American people and the majority of our people wish action on Iraq to be taken multilaterally and within the law. Collective security demands collective action according to the United Nations Charter.
In a short time we may face major decisions. It would be imprudent to make legal assessments of future hypotheses which may be confounded by future events but the law gives us a path of right action: first, in relation to the resolution of last week. A material breach will self-evidently depend upon the evidence submitted by the inspectors in whom the United Nations has reposed its confidence, not upon the individual political assessment of member states alone. A decision that there has been a material breach must be based on transparent and compelling evidence. If such evidence exists, then, as Kofi Annan said a few days ago, the Security Council must face its responsibilities. If we ask for action through the United Nations, we must accept the grave consequences of a war if the United Nations, through the Security Council, says that it is necessary.
If, however, there is no resolution in favour of war against Iraq, a critical question of law and of the public interest arises. In this morning's Guardian the Foreign Secretary said,
"Of course, military action must only ever be sanctioned as an option of last resort when all diplomatic means have been exhausted—and [most importantly] it must always be consistent with our obligations under the terms of international law".
If there is no Security Council decision for war against Iraq, and if there emerges an argument that there is some residual right of individual states to take action to secure compliance by a defaulting state, that is a totally different state of affairs in international law. There is no legal basis that convincingly shows it to be a residual right but if we have to consider whether it is, it demands serious debate. Its precedent value for unacceptable action in the future is immense. Therefore, with regard to the resolution, if there is a breach, legally and constitutionally it is surely the duty of our Government to ascertain the will of Parliament before war occurs, upon whatever basis it is said to be required.
If there is war with Iraq, let us expect the following: that it will be necessary and proportionate; that it will do its best as an operation to protect the civilians we seek to protect; that there is a plan for the post-conflict situation—regime change from dictatorship to chaos is no change—and, finally, that we observe the Geneva Conventions because we are decent people. We do not want legal black holes such as at Guantanamo. We want the world to respect the force of law.
I have spoken as a lawyer but I hope also as a citizen. In all the decisions I have outlined that may fall to be taken, the merit of such critical decisions is not to be found in the vigour with which they are made but more in the intellectual rigour which has led to them. But, above all, they should be based upon systems of law that command the confidence of us all.
My Lords, I totally understand and accept the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, from this debate. I wish him the very best of fortune in his endeavours in Washington. Nevertheless, I intend, not surprisingly, to concentrate on a subject with which the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, is not entirely unfamiliar.
Events are moving so fast, in the Gulf and elsewhere where British forces are deployed, that anything that is said today may well be out of date tomorrow. It is with this problem that our political and military masters have to wrestle. The buzzword of today is "concurrence". No one denies that the 1998 SDR is now out of date. Since the publication date of that document British forces have routinely been deployed on more operations concurrently than were then envisaged. There is no doubt that frequent smaller operations are becoming the pattern. That pattern is difficult to handle, particularly in logistic terms for each operation needs a fleet of "enablers". It is one thing to find front-line troops; the back-up is more tricky—there is only my noble friend Lord Attlee. Those smaller operations, when a number are being conducted at one time, are so much more difficult to handle than one large one.
This week it has been announced that 15,000 men are being prepared to be deployed in Iraq. That is a large operation. But what will the Ministry of Defence do if Afghanistan and Northern Ireland blow up at the same time? We must ask if a war against Iraq and the war against terrorism can be conducted at the same time. The enabling assets include deployable headquarters, communications and communicators, deployed logistical support, engineers and movements personnel. If there are not the personnel to do those jobs, the efficacy of the operation will be severely endangered. Although in theory some of the holes can be filled by NATO or EU forces, in many cases that just will not work. We have to rely on what we can produce ourselves. The planners have to address themselves to those points. Some of the problems are relatively inexpensive. For this Government, and indeed for any other, life is a struggle between the Exchequer and the department that wishes to spend money.
Defence has been doing slightly better of late but there are still nothing like the resources available for all the jobs that need to be done. That was shown particularly in my noble friend's list of deficiencies in equipment, which I find simply terrifying. Some of the problems, such as the IT programmes, are relatively inexpensive. But any temptation to make short-term cuts in the hope that they will not be noticed because they are "invisible" must be resisted. Those problems for the planners must be brought into the open.
Front Line First was the title of a previous planning extravaganza. Today the front line is relatively in hand, it is the back-up that needs work done. Nothing that I am saying is new. It has all been included in published documents under the imprimatur of the Secretary of State. He has said,
"for some considerable time many of our servicemen and women have been working at or near, and in some cases beyond, the boundaries of what was planned in the SDR".
The problem of personnel is immense as material can alleviate but cannot remove the need for men. My honourable friend Bernard Jenkin and Mr Syd Rapson have been trying in another place to find out when the Secretary of State expects to publish the findings of the inquiry into Armed Forces personnel issues. They are not having much joy. They have been told that the first-phase findings are likely to be published in the spring next year with the final phase in the autumn. Sadly, things are going so quickly that we do not have that much time. Recruitment is to some extent holding up and certainly a number of regiments are getting more recruits than they are allowed to handle. However, the Government's policy is damaging the capability of the services to keep those men. The need for proper pensions, properly explained, is urgent.
It has now been established, I understand, that unmarried partners will be treated as spouses, but the Armed Forces have still not done enough to keep the womenfolk of their men happy. That is an absolute requirement. Failure to meet it will be fatal. It is bad enough at the moment. Our servicemen join the services to defend the country in the broadest sense of the term. They will not do so when so many of our units are, for instance, being temporarily laid up performing as firemen for when the "40 per centers" go on strike. Those strikes present immense practical difficulties, but the C-in-C Fleet is not the only one complaining about the destruction of our maritime capability. In a world of shortages, probably the worst is the shortage of fast pilots and trained and qualified submariners. I hope that the Minister will be able to assuage doubts that that problem, which is now extremely serious, will not become desperate in two or three years' time.
I must return to my old hobbyhorse, the tri-service discipline Bill. When are going to get it? I do not need to tell the Minister that it is, I believe, four general elections ago that we were promised it. The increasing scale of multi-service operations is making a Bill increasingly essential. Will the Minister tell us why we cannot go on and get it? Provided that it receives a modicum of pre-legislative scrutiny, it should not be too contentious. Most of the battles have already been fought—and lost. In principle, such a Bill will certainly be welcomed in both Houses.